« ZurückWeiter »
mous man of its own. Here the story-telling shoemaker had engrossed the admiration on one side of the street, while the bellman, who excelleth at a catch, was in quiet possession of the other. At one end of a lane the sexton was regarded as the greatest man alive, but I had not travelled half its length, till I found an enthusiast teacher had divided his reputation. My landlady perceiving my design, was kind enough to offer me her advice in this affair. It was true, she observed, that she was no judge, but she knew what pleased herself, and if I would rest upon her judgment, I should set down Tom Collins as the most ingenious man in the world, for Tom was able to take off all mankind, and imitate besides a sow and pigs to perfection. I now perceived, that taking my standard of reputation among the vulgar, would swell my catalogue of great names above the size of a Court Calendar; I therefore discontinued this method of pursuit, and resolved to prosecute my inquiry in that usual residence of fame, a bookseller's shop. In consequence of this I entreated the bookseller to let me know who were they who now made the greatest figure either in morals, wit, or learning. Without giving me a direct answer, he pulled a pamphlet from the shelf, The Young Attorney’s Guide; there, Sir.
oved off in a day: I take the author of this omphle her for title, preface, plan, body, or index, to be the completest hand in England. I found it was vain to prosecute my inquiry, where my informer appeared so incompetent a judge of merit, so paying for the Young Attorney’s Guide, which good manners obliged me to buy, I walked off. My pursuit after famous men now brought me into * print shop. Here, thought I, the painter only to
es he, there is a touch for you, fifteen hundred of . flects the public voice. As every man who deserved it, had formerly his statue placed up in the Roman forum, so here probably the pictures of none but such as merit a place in our affections are held up for public sale. But guess my surprise when I came to examine this depository of noted faces; all distinctions were levelled here, as in the grave, and I could not but regard it as the catacomb of real merit. The brick-dustnan took up as much room as the trunchconed hero, and the judge was elbowed by the thieftaker; quacks, pimps, and buffoons, increased the group, and noted stallions only made rooin for more noted whores. I had read the works of some of the moderns previously to my coming to England, with delight and approbation, but I found their faces had no place here, the walls were covered with the names of authors I had never known, or had endeavoured to forget; with the little self advertising things of a day, who had forced themselves into fashion, but not into fame; I could read at the bottom of some pictures the names of **, and ***, and ****, all equally candidates for the vulgar shout, and foremost to propagate their unblushing faces upon brass. My uneasiness therefore at not finding my few favourite names among the number, was now changed into congratulation; I could not avoid reflecting on the fine observation of Tacitus, on a similar occasion. In this cavalcade of flattery, cries the historian, neither the pictures of Brutus, o oo: Cato, WC1'c to be soonineseorum non-deforehanor, their absence being the strongest proof of their merit. It is in vain, cried I, to seek for true greatness among these monuments of the unburied dead; let the go among the tombs of those who are confessedly famous, and see if any have been lately deposited:
whose names may be transmitted to my distant friends as an honour to the present age. Determined in my pursuit, I paid a second visit to Westminster Abbey. There I found several new monuments erected to the memory of several great men; the names of the great men I absolutely forget, but I well remember that Roubillac was the statuary who carved them. I could not help smiling at two modern epitaphs in particular; one of which praised the deceased for being ortus ex antiqua stirfie; the other commended the dead, because hanc aedem suis sumfitibus rededificawit : the greatest merit of one consisted in his being descended from an illustrious house; the chief distinction of the other that he had propped up an old house that was falling. Alas! alas ! cried I, such monuments as these confer honour, not upon the great men, but upon little Roubillac. Hitherto disappointed in my inquiry after the great, of the present age, I was resolved to mix in company, and try what I could learn among critics in coffeehouses; and here it was that I heard my favourite names talked of even with inverted fame. A gentleman of exalted merit as a writer was branded in ge. neral terms as a bad man; another of exquisite delicacy as a poet was reproached for wanting good-nature; a third was accused of free-thinking ; and a th of having once been a player. Strange cried I, how unjust are mankind in the distribution of fame; o o *_*g whom I sought at first were willing to grant, but incapable of distinguishing the virtues of those who deserved it; among those I now converse with, they know the proper objects of admiration, but mix envy with applause. Disappointed so often, I was now resolved to examine those characters in person of whom the world talked so freely; by conversing with men of real merit, I began to find out those characters which really deserved, though they strove to avoid, applause. I found the vulgar admiration entirely misplaced, and malevolence without its sting. The truly great, possessed of numerous small faults and shining virtues preserve a sublime in morals as in writing. They who have attained an excellence in either commit numberless transgressions, observable to the meanest understanding. The ignorant critic and dull remarker can readily spy blemishes in eloquence or morals, whose sentiments are not sufficiently elevated to observe a beauty; but such are judges neither of books nor of life; they can diminish no solid reputation by their censure, nor bestow a lasting character by their applause: in short, I found by my search, that such only can confer real fame upon others, who have merit themselves to deserve it. Adieu.
To the same.
--- _ I HERE are numberless employments in the courts he Eastern monarchs utterly unpractised and unkn wn in Europe. They have no such officers, for instance, as the emperor's ear-tickler, or tooth-picker; they have never introduced at the courts the mandarine appointed to bear the royal tobacco-box, or the grave director of the imperial exercitations in the seraglio. Yet I am surprised that the English have imi.
tated us, in none of these particulars, as they are go nerally pleased with every thing that comes from China, and excessively fond of creating new and use: less employments. They have filled their houses with our furniture, their public gardens with our fireworks, and their very ponds with our fish; our courtiers, my friend, are the fish and the furniture they should have imported; our courtiers would fill up the necessary ceremonies of a court better than those of Europe; would be contented with receiving large sa” laries for doing little; whereas some of this country are at present discontented though they receive large salaries for doing nothing. I lately therefore had thoughts of publishing a proposal here, for the admission of some new Eastern offices and titles into their court register. As I consider myself in the light of a Cosmopolite, I find as much satisfaction in scheming for the countries in which I happen to reside, as for that in which I was born. The finest apartments in the palace of Pegu, are frequently infested with rats. These the religion of the country strictly forbids the people to kill. In such circumstances therefore they are obliged to have recourse to some great man of the court, who is willing to free the royal apartments even at the hazard of his salvation. After a weak monarch's reign, the quantity of court vermin in every corner of the palace is surprising, but a prudent king and a vigilant officer soon. drive them from their sanctuaries behind the mats and the tapestry, and effectually free the court. Such an officer in England would in my opinion be serviceable at this juncture; for if, as I am told, the palace be old, much vermin must undoubtedly have taken refuge behind the wainscoat and hanging. A minister should therefore be invested with the title and digni